Art about 'baggage that you do not want to check in' during the World Social Forum

February 2004 -

With the exhibition 'Cabin Baggage', artists protested against the reappearance of discrimination after the attacks of September 11 th , 2001 during the World Social Forum in India in January. The artists came from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Mali, Cameroon, the Netherlands, Indonesia and India. The artists' platform Open Circle in India organized the exhibition in cooperation with partners from the RAIN Artists' Initiative network.

While some individuals are free to travel wherever they want, others are not. The stricter rules and inspections within the framework of the war against terrorism, anti-immigration policies and SARS have resulted in one-way traffic. Cabin Baggage was a response to this development. The pieces exhibited were related to 'baggage' that you do not want to check in: that which we strive to resist. The exhibition included video art, machinery and street performances.

The Argentinean Taller Popular de Serigrafia, a mobile silkscreen printing shop that came into being during protests against the Argentinean economic crisis in 2001, also hit the streets of Mumbai. The Argentinean artists translated the mood of the moment into silkscreen prints and distributed these to passers-by.

Artist Rene Hayashi and clown Carmarita from Mexico set up an exchange with Indian musicians, actors and artists. Based on their own artistic language, the Indian artists interpreted expressions of the Mexican culture and the Mexicans did the same with Indian expressions. A group of Hindu actors, for example, joined Carmarita in singing a traditional Mexican folksong, and Indian sculptors created their impression of the Virgin de la Guadalupe.

Amidst the relative chaos and abundance of works of art during the World Social Forum, this exhibition shined a special light on the relationship between art and the audience. There were no dividing lines between works of art and the visitors. Empty spots in the exhibition area were used by the audience to hang their own posters. The works of art were continually touched and felt.

This meeting of artists during Cabin Baggage has since resulted in a new project entitled Meeting Point. Meeting Point hopes to establish a new system of relationships and money circulation between artists and institutions. The objective is to make the artists independent of the standards sometimes even unwillingly applied by institutions and the 'funds market'.

The artists' platform Open Circle strives to esthetize politics. Central themes in the activities of this platform are marginalization of 'the other' and cultural homogenization, from the perspectives of both India and the world. The platform organizes debates between individuals from various sections of society, artistic events in public areas, and responses to political and social developments. Open Circle is one of the nine partners in the RAIN Artists' Initiatives Network, along with Ruangrupa (Indonesia), Centre Soleil d'Afrique (Mali), the Artbakery (Cameroon), PULSE (South Africa), Trama (Argentina), CEIA (Brazil), El despacho (Mexico) and the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten (Amsterdam).

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Development Cooperation and the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten both supported Cabin Baggage.